The Knox administration must focus on providing resources and listening to undocumented students. In the current political climate, undocumented students are some of the most vulnerable people on campus and Knox needs to be doing everything they can to protect them and provide what they need.
Currently, the administration is waiting for undocumented students to approach them to address needs. Administrators are very cautious about the privacy of undocumented students — and for good reason, but at least three students have come out as undocumented since Fall Term 2015. Clearly, there are some students who want to be known and heard.
We are proud that the administration has released a statement and is making it public that we do not release information on students’ status unless required to do so by law, but much more must be done.
Administrators need to hear what students need and want. Providing a counselor that specializes in working with undocumented students, adding a support group, giving students free legal counsel, creating an undocumented students center, holding a forum to answer questions and exploring more options for financial aid are some proactive actions the college could take to help its undocumented population.
Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich told The Knox Student that undocumented students can come to the administration and ask for what they need. “If students feel like there’s something in the counseling realm they’re not getting they just have to tell us. That’s it,” she said.
Rather than waiting for these things to be requested, the college should reach out to students and see what administrators can do to help and provide on campus. Communication and clarity has been lacking between the administration and undocumented students. Solving this must be a priority.
For example, some of the pieces of President Teresa Amott’s email that was sent Sunday evening talked about existing policies in regards to undocumented students that were new to senior Karla Medina, an undocumented student.
“As an undocumented student, I never knew that these policies were supposedly already in place,” she said.
Ehrlich also told TKS that the college has considered bringing someone in to speak to undocumented students about what could happen if there is another executive order to explain what could happen and what students should be aware of.
The college absolutely should do this. It should go further. Bring in a lawyer or counselor who has specific knowledge about advocating for undocumented immigrants and have them explain to students what could realistically happen in the next four years, what their rights are and how they can fight policies that might threaten them. This will equip students with the knowledge they need to respond to any actions that could threaten their status. Providing this help after policies are enacted could be too late.
Along with providing legal counsel, the college must prioritize communicating with its undocumented population. Hold a question and answer session or forum with undocumented students so they can ask any questions they have and give the college feedback about the resources that are available. For example, Medina did not know until recently that she could study abroad as an undocumented student, but she can.
Opening up the conversation would ensure that questions like this do not go unanswered and opportunities are not missed out on. This session could be private and only open to concerned administrators and undocumented students, so their privacy and safety are not jeopardized. If more questions come up, students would then know who they can reach out to.
Knox must do everything it can to keep all of its students safe and allow them to continue their education. Reaching out, providing resources and listening are the first steps that administrators can take to ensure that this is the case.
Editor’s Note: Digital Editor Julia Mondschean did not write this version of Embers, as she wrote The Knox Student’s story on the sanctuary campus movement.